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Tom Klaff, a serial entrepreneur, CEO, and longtime toast lover, has been pondering the state of toast for years. Before he founded his latest company, Revolution Cooking, in 2018, he would tell people, “We’ve been able to put a person on the moon, but we still haven’t solved the problem of the slow, inconsistent toaster.”
Klaff, a natural-born innovator, started looking into why that was. He discovered that the heating mechanisms in toasters were basically the same as when the appliance was first invented over 120 years ago.
Klaff decided it was about time the lowly toaster got a 21st-century upgrade, and with a team of first-class engineers, he set out to do just that. It took a few years to perfect, but, eventually, they had it: the Revolution Toaster. It ushers in a whole new world of toast, and it all takes a fraction of the time of conventional toasters, achieving medium brown toast in less than two minutes.
The Revolution Toaster caught Oprah’s eye because, like Klaff, she loves bread and toast; anything that can take that enjoyment to the next level immediately puts it squarely among some of her Favorite Things. Above, watch how Oprah, Gayle, and Adam Glassman surprised Klaff with the news that his beloved toaster was chosen as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things 2022. Read on for our sit-down with Klaff, where he shared about how his invention came to be and his advice for other inventors.
We heard it wasn’t just your own frustration with slow toasters that inspired you to create this one.
That’s right. A friend I’ve known for 40 years had a running complaint about how long it takes to toast a bagel. He did a thing called Bagel Monday for the employees of his business, but the bagels took so long to toast, he’d have long lines of people in the kitchen and nobody working at their desks! He tried buying more toasters, but that just popped the circuits. It was a disaster. Once I started talking to my friends about toasters, it turned out there are legions of people who hate their toasters. It’s like a secret cult that none of us knew we were a part of: the millions of us who get frustrated that our toasters are so slow. Until now, that is.
What makes the Revolution Toaster, well, revolutionary?
Because we reach higher temperatures faster, we can caramelize bread and foods faster. It’s like searing a steak: The fast heat locks in the moisture and flavor of the food. It happens so quickly in our toaster—about half the time of a typical toaster—that the toast is ready to eat well before the moisture and flavor is baked out of the bread, which typically happens in traditional models. With ours, no matter if you like toast on the light side or on the darker, burnt side, the inside of the toast will always be moist and flavorful, never dry.
And all of that is controlled by that giant touchscreen?
Yes, you can program hundreds of unique heating sequences. You can choose if your bread is fresh, frozen, or if you just want to reheat it; select seven brownness levels; specify if it’s a bagel, English muffin, or even a waffle. And we designed a handsome clock—you can pick between analog or digital—to give our consumers more utility when they aren’t toasting and a reason to keep our toasters out on their counters.
You’ve got some cool accessories for it—like the panini press. How does that work?
The panini press is this uniquely designed press that fits right into the toaster and makes a filled sandwich faster than you could do it on the stove—and with no mess. You can have a perfect grilled cheese in just two and a half minutes, no greasing a pan or washing a skillet. People are coming up with all kinds of recipes and posting them on social media: stuffed French toast, toaster tacos, a chocolate s’mores sandwich. I’ve tried the latter, and believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted a chocolate s’mores sandwich.
Speaking of social media, your toaster became a viral sensation thanks to a certain rapper who raved about it from his kitchen. How did that affect things in your life?
When we first started this project, my son was a lot younger, and he thought all I was doing was building toasters. When people would ask, “What does your father do for a living?” he would shrug his shoulders and say, “My dad makes toast.” But once the toaster became an internet sensation, my son suddenly thought I was pretty cool.
What is your advice for other entrepreneurs who want to reimagine an iconic appliance?
It takes a village of talent who know every aspect of how to get a product to market. My prior experience has been in software, where you enjoy recurring revenue, high margins, no inventory or supply chain disruptions, and no logistics. Hardware is much different. Entrepreneurs venturing into consumer durables need patient investors who understand the nuances and complexity of building a business like this. But it is worth it to create something tangible that delivers wonder and joy to our consumers.
What was it like to see Oprah pop up on your computer screen to announce that Revolution had been chosen for Oprah’s Favorite Things?
It was surreal. I grew up in Baltimore, and I remember Oprah as a news broadcaster there. What can I say? She’s an American treasure.
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